The Data Initiative: a Detailed Summary

The Data Initiative: a Detailed Summary

President McPhee announcing the Data Initiative at MTSU

On Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at the Nashville Technology Council's Tech Hill Commons facility, MTSU announced the Data Initiative.  In attendance were over 25 representatives from companies, the Presidents and staff from the three local chambers, government officials, including THEC Executive Director Mike Krause, K-12 administrators, and several faculty and administrators from MTSU to hear about what MTSU is doing in Data Science.  To see a highlight of the day, please watch the video below or click here for the press release.

What is the Data Initiative?


This blog is intended to give specific information on exactly what is the Data Initiative and how it will look to propel MTSU as a leader in data science education.  This initiative brings together all things data related at MTSU in education, research and projects, and student experiences.  By bringing "all things data" together it allows MTSU to offer the experiences needed to be successful in data science. The Initiative includes:

  • Data Science Bachelor of Science Degree (Starting in the Fall 2020)
  • Data Science Graduate Certificate (Starting in the Fall 2020)
  • PhD. in Computational Science (Started in 2011 and currently has 44 students and has graduated 24 PhD.'s.  A new Data Science concentration will be available in the Fall 2021.)
  • Data Science Institute (Started in 2018)
  • Innovative Programs (Starting this Spring 2020 and is creating programs from K-12 to career ready)

The Data Science Bachelor of Science is the first public data science undergraduate degree in the state of Tennessee and it provides a unique interdisciplinary approach to education that includes courses and faculty from several departments, including Computer Science, Mathematics, Information Systems & Analytics, and Economics and Finance. This degree leverages the strengths of MTSU by bringing the best of all of these areas together to create future career ready professionals.

Students will take courses in programming, statistics, analytics, database, and machine learning as well as selecting a concentration in either Inferential Thinking, Business Intelligence, or Advanced Machine Learning.  Not only will students be taking innovative and interdisciplinary courses, but they will also be able to put those skills to good use through ‘real-world’ projects through the Data Science Institute and events such as Data Dives and Hackathons.  A degree that truly makes you career ready through courses and experiences to create data driven problem solvers. For more information, please visit

The Graduate Certificate in Data Science is for anyone that already completed a bachelor's degree and believes that adding the necessary data skills will enhance their current situation.  Data Science is for everyone and this Graduate Certificate allows any working or aspiring professional the opportunity to get started.  The only prerequisite is a bachelor’s degree.  We encourage individuals from every industry and skill levels to be a part of this program.  To read more about the program, including courses and schedules, please visit

The PhD. in Computational Science prepares students for research careers in academia, government, industrial laboratories, and data science preofessions by emphasizing the key role of computation in the physical, biological, and mathematical sciences. Research-intensive studies in computing, mathematics, and science provide the foundation needed to solve real-world problems across the disciplines. MTSU's program emphasizes both simulation and data-intensive science, giving students the skills they need to model complex systems and handle the huge volumes of data generated in modern scientific experiments. A partnership among faculty from eight different departments results in a unique interdisciplinary education that prepares graduates to adapt and grow as computing systems and scientific research evolves. Most students in the doctoral program can also complete a master's degree in either Mathematics or Computer Science. A Data Science concentration will be available in the Fall 2021.  For more information, please visit

The Data Science Institute bridges the gap between academics, research, and industry by providing real world experiences and research opportunities to students and faculty to make an impact with our community.  The Data Science Institute has worked with several private and non-profit orgainzations to analyze data to make more impactful decisions.  Some of the more recent projects includes non-profits such as Second Harvest Food Bank, Special Kids Therapy and Nursing, Murfreesboro Police and Rutherford County Schools.  The Data Science Institute conducts research in the environmental and sustainability space to gain insights on water pollution.  

Another aspects of the Data Science Institute that provides opportunities to our students are events, such as Data Dives.  A Data Dive is a data hackathon that allows students to work with a non-profit or private company and their data to provide insights.  Data Dives range from 16 hours to 36 hours.  these events allow everyone interested in data science to come together (regardless of expertise) and work on learning and experiencing the process of data science and how to solve a problem.

Finally, the Tennessee Data Initiative includes Innovative Programs, which is an opportunity for MTSU to provide educational opportunites from K-12 to career ready.  This includes curriculum and programs for high school courses, so that teacher are provided the right resources to teach data science.  It includes opportuntites for executive education, workshops, online education, and the creation of a data playground which will include datasets and educational resources to learn data science and give you an experience to reinforce what you learn.  Stay tuned, we expect to continue to post with our new programs and we fully expect to provide some content for FREE.  

These five programs together will help MTSU lead the charge in Tennessee for data science.  We fully understand that to create career ready data driven problem solvers, we not only need good educational content, but also experiences for our students that allow them to play and enhance their data skills.  Becoming a data scientist includes skills in programming, statistics, business, and most importantly the ability to think through and solve a problem.  The Tennessee Data Initiative is intended to allow students to learn and experience data science to be come more career ready.

Click the following for more information about the Data Science Programs  and the Data Science Institute.


MTSU announcement of the Tennessee Data Initiative
Instrumental Individuals for the Tennessee Data Initiative
(from left: Mike Krause (THEC Exec, Director), Charles Baum (TN State Rep.), Mary Martin (MTSU Board of Trustee), Ryan Otter (Director of the Data Science Institute), Charlie Apigian (Director of the Data Science Institute), Sidney A. McPhee (MTSU President), Lisa Green (Director of Data Science B.S.), Mark Byrnes (MTSU Provost), David Butler (Dean of Graduate Studies), Cayson Seipel (Student at MTSU), and Tom Boyd (MTSU Board of Trustee).